Functional Training - What it Really Means

Posted by devika mhatre on August 10th, 2016

Functional training has become a very popular over the last decade, but there is still a lot of confusion about what functional training actually is. As is often the case in health and fitness, once a topic becomes popular, such as with functional training, marketers jump on the bandwagon and start using the term to promote as many products or exercises as possible. This results in many exercises being labeled as functional when the term does not really apply, which naturally just leads to confusion and questions about which exercises should be considered functional and why.

Another problem with the term "functional training" is even people in the fitness community cannot agree on what it means. Some people have adopted the philosophy that functional training simply means doing non-traditional exercises using equipment, such as exercise balls or balance devices, which work muscles in different ways than traditional training. These types of exercises are supposed to be more functional than traditional types of training, particularly when compared to training with machines.

On the other hand, there are other people who say that every exercise is functional and the term functional exercise is essentially meaningless. Both opinions have a little bit of truth, but they also miss the whole point of what functional training is supposed to mean and what it takes for an exercise to be considered functional. To clear up this confusion, the first thing to do is to take a look at the definition of functional. defines functional as "designed for or capable of a particular function or use" and "involving or affecting function rather than physiology."

In fitness related terms, functional exercises are designed to improve specific aspects of function, such as a basketball player using a particular exercise to improve his or her vertical jump. Therefore, any type of exercise can be considered functional, as long as it improves the specific function you are targeting with your training. The important thing to note is the functionality of an exercise depends on the situation, not the exercise itself. If an exercise improves the specific function, skill, or ability you want to improve, then it is functional.

In truth, exercise functionality is not a black or white issue and instead of thinking of an exercise as either functional or non-functional, it is better to think of each exercise as being on a spectrum with extremely functional on one end and having very little or no practical use on the other end. Also, the same exercise can be functional or non-functional depending on the situation. For example, soccer players don't use their hands much, so an exercise to improve grip strength would not be very functional in that situation. On the other hand, performing grip strengthening exercises would be at least somewhat functional for wrestlers who need to be able to grab and hold on to their opponents.

To further separate exercises that are somewhat functional from exercises that are very functional, you have to look more closely at the specific situation. This means you need to evaluate the specific benefits provided by an exercise and determine how much they will benefit the particular function you want to improve. When thinking about wrestlers, tightly squeezing a firm object is somewhat functional, because it can improve overall grip strength, allowing the wrestler to hold on tighter.

However, wrestlers need to grab and hold on to an opponent who is moving and struggling, which is quite different from gripping a stationary object. A more functional exercise could involve having the wrestler hold onto various shaped objects, such as a thick rope or sandbag, and then have another person or even multiple people try to yank the object away from the wrestler. This makes the wrestler's muscles work in a way that is much more similar to how they work during competition, so it is a more functional exercise for that sport.

As I am sure you have noticed, determining how functional an exercise really is can be a rather complicated process. It requires knowledge of the specific benefits that result from performing an exercise, as well as understanding what is required to develop the particular function or skill you are trying to improve. As a result, there are many people who throw around terms like functional training and functional exercise, without actually understanding if the exercises are talking about are functional or not.

When looking at the many different ways the term functional training is used today, it is often used so inappropriately, that in some ways it has almost become a meaningless term that is more of a buzz word than anything. However, Functional Training Program does have a real meaning and in simple terms, functional training is training that uses specific exercises to improve specific aspects of how your body functions.


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devika mhatre

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devika mhatre
Joined: August 8th, 2016
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